Saturday, May 3, 2008

Psalm 1: A Warning for Emergents

I decided to start a slow read and study through the Psalms, haven't spent time in the Psalmody in many years. So I started today reading through one of my favorites, Psalm 1. And maybe it's because of where my mind is recently, but it's as if I read the words with a new perspective or a fresh set of eyes. Verse 1 screamed out to me:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
Here we are told what kinds of things the one who is to be blessed by God avoids. First, walking in the counsel of the wicked. In other words, following the advice of the unregenerate world. Adopting their attitudes and values. Next, standing in the path of sinners. In other words, following not just the advice of the fallen world and adopting their attitudes, but engaging in their behaviors. Finally, sitting in the seat of the scoffer. In other words, identifying yourself with those who mock and scoff at the word of God and the truths of God.

Now, tell me this doesn't sound like a description of the emerging church's recipe for "engaging the culture." This is exactly what so many are doing today in the name and cause of trying to make Christ "relevant" to a sinful world. So many will gladly engage in conversation with the wicked, instead of proclaiming the truth of the Gospel to them. Many will take on the attitudes and behaviors of this world in the cause of "contextualization." And many who have bought into the postmodern skepticism that is rampant in our culture are seeking to self-identify with that culture, which mocks the truth claims at the core of Christian faith and scoffs at the historic faith of the church at large.

The Psalmist goes on to describe then the characteristics of the one who is the recipient of God's favor and blessing:

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
In contrast to the ways and paths and seats of sinners and scoffers, the man of God delights in something else. He delights in the law of God, the words of Yahweh, the Scriptures. He does not find delight in the culture around him, or in some set of religious practices, or even in being "missional" and "following the way of Jesus." No, instead he finds delight and complete pleasure in God's revealed word. In the truth that word contains and points to. And what's his response to that delight? Meditation. Reading, thinking on, struggling with, putting into practice the truth found in the word. And not on Sundays, but rather 24x7.

So compare this with the low view of Scripture that marks those in the emergent movement these days. Many emergent authors seem almost embarrassed by the Bible. Or at best they are like Rob Bell and his wife, who claim that they really don't even know what it means anymore. How can you delight in something that you don't even value? How can you meditate on something and apply it when you are skeptical of the truth claims it contains? This is what you get when you try to merge the postmodern rejection of absolutes and certainty with the exclusivity and eternal truths at the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But let's go on with the Psalm. Look at the result of the one who delights in and meditates on the word of God:

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
What a statement of the blessings of God on a life that values and is centered on His truth. A firm foundation, rooted and grounded in truth and the character of the Truth Giver. A life that is sustained, that bears fruit and weathers the dry seasons. A life that is prosperous in God's economy. Do you see any signs of the postmodern angst and uncertainty here that the emergents seem to value so much? None, whatsoever. In fact just the opposite.

But then there is the warning for those who would not be like this. The Psalm provides a picture of the result of those who would reject this life founded on God's truth.

The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.
It's really easy to dismiss these statements as applying to "the wicked", those who have no part in God's kingdom, those outside the church. And that is certainly the point here, referring to those who are not righteous through faith in Christ. But the context seems to indicate that these also include those who simply are the opposite of the one who is blessed by God because of their love for His truth. And look at the result. Again, just the opposite. Instead of being firmly grounded and sustained, they are like chaff that blows any which way the wind takes them. No foundational truth to hold to, only absolute uncertainty. This is the ultimate outcome for those postmodern people, even those in the emerging church, who reject and scoff at the truth claims of the word of God. Just blowin' in the wind of every cultural wave that comes by. I'm not saying that anyone who identifies with the emergent movement is not believer in Christ. But I am saying that one can't be true to the Gospel of Christ and to the tenets of the emergent church and postmodernism at the same time.

So be warned, you emergents who hold the word of God and the doctrines it contains in low esteem or even in contempt. Be afraid, you postmodern lovers of uncertainty and haters of absolute truth. When you try to blend postmodern philosophy with eternal the truth claims of Christ, you end up with something. But it definitely isn't Christianity. And it most assuredly isn't something you can base a life on. And you will surely reap what you sow.

3 comments:

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beth said...

Thanks for being willing to share such bold words! Where did you hear that Rob Bell & his wife claim they don't really know what the Bible means anymore?

The Doulos said...

Beth, the statment by Rob & Kristen Bell is widely known and was published in an article in Christianity Today back in November 2004. Here's a snippet:

"Life in the church had become so small," Kristen says. "It had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working." The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself—"discovering the Bible as a human product," as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat. "The Bible is still in the center for us," Rob says, "but it's a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it."

"I grew up thinking that we've figured out the Bible," Kristen says, "that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel like life is big again—like life used to be black and white, and now it's in color."